Charles F. Sams III made history when he was selected as the head of the National Park Service in December of last year. He was the first Native American to hold this position. It would not be easy for him to complete the task.
The number of people going to the largest parks in the United States is at an all-time high, road repairs and other infrastructure improvements are desperately required, and the consequences of climate change, such as coastal erosion, landslides, and floods, constitute a rising danger. The Great American Outdoors Act, a $9.5 billion package that was enacted by Congress in 2020 to address these challenges and that Mr. Sams will help execute, will be implemented with his assistance.
Although it is a difficult task, Mr. Sams has spent his whole working life negotiating the complications of the administration of tribal territory. His most recent position was as executive director of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indian Reservation, which is located in the northeast corner of Oregon, close to where he now resides. Mr. Sams, who is Cayuse and Walla Walla, said that he owes a lot of gratitude to his grandpa for instilling a sense of duty in him about the local flora and fauna.
Deb Haaland, the Secretary of the Interior, and I walked to the second landing of the marble stairs, and she told me to look down at my feet in order for me to realise that I was standing in the same spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. The Native American Ms. Haaland said that “we are embracing Dr. King’s dream.” It was a huge honour for me.
Secretary of State Haaland has mentioned the significance of accessibility in her remarks. What kinds of obstacles have we had to overcome in order to make our national parks available to all Americans?
The problem of cost is one factor to consider. In order to facilitate access to the park system for families living on modest incomes, we have formed partnerships with the communities of Homestead and Miami, Florida, and are now operating bus service to the Biscayne and Everglades national parks.
Many parks that were constructed in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s did not have ADA accessible when they were first opened. We are pleased to be able to put some of the money from the Great American Outdoors Act into accessibility improvements, which will allow people who may have physical limitations to enjoy the parks in new and exciting ways. People who have problems with their vision, for instance, now have the opportunity to have a more tactile experience at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial visitors centre in Washington, where there are now miniature reproductions of the monuments that are on display there.
My great-great-great grandpa Peo Peo Mox Mox, who was the top man of the Walla Walla people at the time, was a signer of the contract that formed the reserve in 1855. That treaty also established the Walla Walla Indian Reservation. Both his ancestors and mine first believed that they had reserved 500,000 acres, but it turned out that they only had reserved 250,000 acres. Because of the Allotment Act of 1887, it was transformed into a “checkerboard reservation,” and as a result, we have a diverse population of Indians and non-Indians living in a region over which our tribe has legal authority.
Being able to work with both tribal members and nontribal members, along with the infrastructure and economic development on a reservation, gave me a pretty good grounding in how to manage budgets and resources. Additionally, being able to lead a tribe gave me the opportunity to work with both tribal members and nontribal members.
We were given very explicit guidance from Vice President Biden and Secretary Haaland to really lean in and convey the unsung tales of America, even if doing so may be challenging. Therefore, the answer to your question is yes; we will be travelling out there and working with a large number of academics and community people who are familiar with the rich history of their own countries in order to assist us in telling a mosaic of tales.
In most cases, it will not have an effect on people who come and go during the day. We are going to witness a fuller capacity of preservation efforts for native animals like buffalo and wolves as we engage closely with tribes, whether via co-stewardship or comanagement. Co-stewardship refers to the practise of working together with another party to oversee a shared resource. There is evidence that native people have inhabited this area for at least 10,000 years and maybe much longer. Over the course of the years, we have overlooked the people who have lived in this area the longest and who may have the benefit of observational knowledge to assist in the protection of these parks that we like so much.